Here is part one of our three-part series on casino development, New York’s Big Bet. Part two, which focuses on local control of casino siting, will air tonight on Capital Tonight.

You can watch web-exclusive extras here.

The promises from potential developers of resort-style casinos in upstate New York are huge. As the area gears up for the first round of casino bidding, a complicated and potentially fraught process is taking shape.

In April, 22 bids accompanied by a one million dollar filing fee were submitted to the state’s Gaming Commission. Of those, four projects will be selected to build in three regions of the state: The Capital Region, the Southern Tier and the Catskills and Hudson Valley. Selecting the projects are former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz, and gubernatorial adviser and businessman Paul Francis.

“There seems to be more interest than I think many people initially anticipated. We’ve seen 22 submissions so far, which is quite a few consider there are only four slots available,” said Heather Bricetti, Business Council President and CEO.

The developers pledge to transform a moribund economy in a region that has spent a generation struggling to retain jobs, businesses and people.

In a few cases, however, the developers are not being very forthcoming. In some instances, they have not revealed exactly where they would build a casino and others are yet to select an operator to manage the casino.

Nevertheless, some developers are more than happy to share their plans and how they’ll be linked with a local economy. In Seneca County, developer Thomas Wilmot says his resort would be linked with the Finger Lakes wine country.

“It will have a huge impact and then there’ll be many local companies which will be providing a wide variety of services to this facility,” said Wilmot.
We anticipate that many of those patrons will also use other services, whether they go on to visit wineries, do shopping at the outlet center in the immediate area, stay in local hotels.”

Other projects pledge to revive a local economy, such as Foxwoods developers, who believe the Catksills can see economic growth and increased tourism once again thanks to casino gambling.

“If you look at what led to the demise of the Catksills – basically affordable, convenient transportation, that’s no longer the case,” said Sal Semola, president of Foxwoods Catskills Resort.

For business leaders who support casino gambling, this can give developers a leg up in the selection process.

“That is what will set proposals apart – the concepts that integrate themselves into the regional economy so they can build off of what’s already there and make a more attractive picture for tourism,” Bricetti said.

Not everyone is convinced. Opponents of gambling note that casinos can actually make a local economy worse, with issues ranging from increased costs to law enforcement to the impact a gambling addiction has on families.

“Underneath what looks like money coming into the community, there’s also a tremendous loss,” said Stephen Shafer, Coalition Against Gambling in NYS.

A portion of the revenue generated by casino gaming is required by law to be directed to problem gambling, but Shafer believes both the state and casino companies have little interest in helping those with additions.

“About half the revenue from the average casino comes from the net losses of problem gamblers, so the better job the state or the casinos do at deterring and curing problem gamblers and treating and helping problem gamblers recover, the lower their revenues are going to be,” Shafer said.

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